Advice from the Pros:
Change your strings. Have your vision, but be open to letting things turn out the way they turn out. Be open
to other people's comments. And wash your hands if you eat greasy food. It's hard to finger that kick ass guitar solo
if you have pizza grease all over the fretboard.
Barbara Manning, Producer
Practice, practice, practice. If you are not rehearsed and organized before you enter the recording studio,
you will run into trouble. And you will run out of money before you can fix it! You want to be mentally prepared and
physically prepared. On the mentally prepared part, you want to practice your songs as well as you can, so you can play
them in as few takes as possible. And physically, obviously, don't forget to bring your amps and guitars. A lot of people
actually assume that a studio's just going to have everything, but it won't. So everything you want to use, you have to bring.
If you are going to sing, it's best to drink something that is not too cold and not too sugary--both will tighten up
your vocal chords. For a long time I drank Classic Coke, as it was known back then. I t's not really very good--I wouldn't
recommend it. Whiskey is actually pretty good. When we did the Air Miami record, we drank Jagermeister. Soothes your
throat. I'd recommend Jagermeister, its more like candy, as opposed to whiskey, which is like something you want to
Bring supplies to the studio: instruments, cables, strings, guitar picks, lyric sheets, drum sticks, duct tape, cigarettes
and the rest of your band paraphernalia. But don't overlook the snack factor. You should be prepared for long hours
of hard work in the studio, and that means you will probably get hungry. You have to budget for snacks as well. Munchies--like
goldfish, pretzels, combos, peanuts--are always popular. You can also bring something more substantial to make in the
studio, like bagels and cream cheese.
For some people, it's embarrassing to hear themselves -- especially in a recording that picks everything up. Don't
be freaked out by that. You should ask your fellow band members if they want you to leave the room while they are performing
solo, such as during a vocal overdub. Some people get very self-conscious and it is better to leave them with the engineer
to do their thing. Some people really won't want you there when they're belting out their soul, as I know from personal
Mark Robinson, Producer
Take as much care as you can over the recording. Too many musicians take a sloppy attitude to rehearsing and
recording. When we go into the studio, only perfect will do, which is one of the reasons our records still sell years after
we made them.
Dave Gilmour, guitar player and producer.
Tuning problems can be some of the biggest frustrations in the studio. Buy a tuner and make sure everyone who plays
an instrument in the band knows how to use it. This saves a lot of grief when the guitarist goes to do overdubs the
next day and his guitar is out of tune.
You should plan to give yourself enough time to do the job right. As a rule of thumb, less is best. If you're going
for high quality recording, you should attempt fewer songs than you think you can finish in your allotted time. If you
just want to bash out your 16 song live set, that doesn't leave much time in your budget for more careful and complicated
overdubs, so you'll get a more raw product at the end. It could take a whole day to get a song really nice, or you could
do 18 songs in one day. So think about that. Doing a lot of songs isn't necessarily bad if it's what you are prepared
to do. Many bands lay down the basic tracks live, with drums, bass and guitar playing together. This creates a
good energetic recording and also saves time! Make sure to allow an equal amount of time to mix your songs as you allow
to record them. Even the best performance will sound terrible if you don't take the time to mix it properly.
Don't assume the engineer is going to make you sound the way you want. Take an active role in talking about what
kinds of things excite you when you hear them. Otherwise you'll get the generic.
The studio is about getting a good sound on tape. This is very different than a live performance, where acts of
extremism, such as jumping around or smashing your guitar, communicate an emotional reaction to the audience. In the
studio, those things may not result in the best sound. So concentrate on playing well. Power comes from subtlety
and finesse rather than from more loud guitars. Power is in quality tone rather than quantity of guitar tracks.
Power is from careful planning, not just loud things. In other words, thumping that bass note extra loud doesn't help
you in the studio -- you're just going to have to re-record it.
Don't get reactionary. What worked well in the demo may not now. Listen as you go. Don't expect
it to go as planned -- change your plan as you go. Respond to what you're hearing rather than what you think you want
Rob Christiansen, engineer.
The band usually lays down the basic tracks -- guitar, bass, drums -- first thing in the studio. Often the
singer will add her part later. The band should practice the song without vocals so you can play it without the vocal
cues. You should spend a lot of time with your instrument and amp before the clock starts ticking in the studio.
Make sure you can get the sounds you want out of it and set it up. You should try to play with your band and change
the settings, too. You get different sounds when everyone is there than when it's just you in the room. Always
schedule extra time -- more than you think you'll need, 'cause you'll need it. Each song is going to take at least three
hours. Even if it doesn't, that is probably a good bet.
Ask the engineer questions about what he's doing so you can communicate what you want. Don't be afraid to assert
yourself. If you want something done, you have to make it happen. Don't step on toes, but at the same time, it
is your record, not the engineer's record. You or the producer really have to assert your ideas, but the engineer is
the person who is actually going to make it happen. A good cooperative way to mix your songs is to let the engineer
set up a rough mix that he thinks sounds good, and then let everyone comment on that.
Phil Satlof, bass player and producer
Editing and sequencing are hard to explain, because if the job's done right, you won't notice it's there. There
are a million tricks to be done during the editing and sequencing process. Some require forethought during the original
mixdown. For instance, if you want to have songs crossfade into one another, it is best not to fade them down during
the mix. Have someone explain the possibilities of this digital technology before you enter the studio.
Robert Salsbury, ProTools editor
I never sung that line. They've totally retuned me. Fookin' technology!
Ozzy Osbourn, singer.